St Peter’s Way Ultra

Over Christmas I had given myself a couple of weeks off running. In part as a much needed rest for myself but also to give my long suffering wife and children some personal time over the festive period. I had signed up to the Flitch Way 100k  on 29th January 2017 and had to get back into the training post Christmas..and it wasn’t going well. Up until Christmas I had been following a high carb, low fat diet and had been in keto and running well. Christmas and all the lovely food that it brings had put an end to that and post Christmas I was struggling to get back into a routine and finding training very difficult. My longest run pre race ended up being 13 miles and this showed on race day. I managed to haul myself to 44 miles before my knees protested from the lack of training. Not too bad considering but still noted as a DNF. But it was a good kick to the training and helped get me going again.

Next up was the St Peter’s Way ultra, again one of Challenge Running’s races on February 26th 2017. The runs in the weeks leading up to it had been stronger and I was feeling much better and more confident. On race day I drove down to Ongar giving a lift to local runner Robin Challacombe and parked near the start which I know fairly well as it is also the same area that incorporates the Essex Way Relay which I have taken part in the past 2 years. The weather was a little on the cool side and damp. The race is listed as one of the muddiest race in the UK! so was expecting it to be quite bad on the field crossings involved. I had my kit check done and registered then sought out some friends and had a chat and catch up. Lindley then gave a briefing and soon after set us all on our way. I’m not great on races that rely on notes and navigation and was expecting to get lost at some point! As well as the maps and notes I had the route on my Garmin and in the early stages planned on following the masses hoping that, surely, the majority couldn’t all go wrong.

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The early miles were pretty good and straight forward with people moving in large groups with only a slight bit of weaving over fields and finding the way. As usual I was sweating fairly heavily but wasn’t too concerned, I was moving at a good pace early on around 8.45 per mile. I had set myself a time of 9 hours after the 100k effort and subsequent training, not knowing the route and also aware there were field crossings and hills involved. CP 1 same came around were I didn’t stop for long at all just topping up my water and continued on wards. I soon came across Nathan Taylor who I had met at the 100k and we ran together for some way. I know Nathan is a stronger runner than me so wasn’t sure how long I would try and keep to his pace. He has run St Peter’s a number of times so it was great just to follow him and not refer to the map or notes. We passed the A12 and then onwards passing a railway line. It was only a few days after storm Doris and along this section there were a number of huge trees down which meant a small bit of climbing over or ducking under. Shortly after I fell behind Nathan and made my biggest mistake of the run missing a turning he had taken which left me back tracking and trying to find the correct turn. A fair few people had managed to pass me at that point and I ran with or near to another set of runners passing alongside a golf course and narrowly being missed by a wayward shot through Stock and on towards Hanningfield.

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The route then leads on to the A130 and following this is a long incline which I had to take a walk on as it seemed to drag on for ages and got to my legs. Fortunately once it was over I was able to pick up the running again, I’m not sure in hindsight what my pace was at that point but I know it was good and better than I had been hoping for. It was now a matter of how long it would last! There were some reasonably rough field crossings but the weather had been kind to us and I managed to run across them. They certainly would have been far worse in a downpour. I had developed a bad backache mainly due to not running regularly with the waist belt I was using. Heading on to Maylandsea and beyond was a good section and the legs were working well and I was still! yes! still! holding a good pace. As I headed on to the final checkpoint the wind was really picking up, no rain fortunately but it was really strong. As the final checkpoint came into view I was feeling really confident and just wanted to forge on to the sea wall where I knew the end was near. On leaving CP4 I pushed on fairly strong and was determined not to let the few fellas behind me catch up and overtake. I kept looking back but had lost sight of them. I think it was just before Tillingham I noticed that someone different had also overtaken them but was making good ground on me!! I pushed on “when is that bloody sea wall going to appear!” I kept looking back and I could still see a fluorescent yellow t-shirt some way back, maybe half a mile. After passing though a small farm and over a couple more fields the bank of the sea wall was in sight. on top and looking out the chapel of St Peter was in view. The wind was howling and the strongest it had been now open to the sea. I got a bit carried away and belted along the wall. As the crow flies the chapel looks quite close, about 2.5 miles but the wall loops around and is closer 3 possibly 3.5 miles. I slowed a little and kept a strong pace…it just didn’t seem to get closer. Then it was standing before me..passing through a small copse and on through the finish line.

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I finished in 7h 42m well inside my target of 9 hours. An average pace of 10.45 a mile which was 15 seconds per mile faster than my effort at the 100k so a good improvement. All of my races in the coming months are all training for the Grand Union Canal Race  which I failed to complete last year missing the cut off at CP9, 133 miles.

Thanks to Lindley and all of the volunteers who made it a great day, a great scenic and historic route. It’ll certainly be on my list for next year.

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Still Making Progress With The Running

By the end of March I’d managed to shake off the injury I had been carrying for almost a year. The running was beginning to improve again, the distances getting longer and the pace slowly improving. One thing I have started doing the last few weeks is actually attending Park Runs. I registered about 2 years ago but had never been until 4 weeks ago! They are clearly a great training aid for a bit of speed because I ran a new PB of 20m 51s a couple of weeks back.

Out of nowhere the other week I pulled/tore a muscle along the front of my shin which made walking painful. I have no idea how it happened or why. went to bed fine and woke up in pain. So that put an end to running the Ashdon 10k. It healed up pretty quickly and I was back to the running with no problems a week later running the Birchanger 10k. That was a really tough run! some large hills on a 2 lap course meant my time on the face of it was quite slow at 46m 13s. but a flatter course would easily take 3 or 4 minutes off that time. That means my target of a sub 40 minute 10k is still some way off.

A bit of a last minute impulsive entry I have entered the Flitch Way Marathon. As it is local and I’m looking to increase my training mileage I’m just treating it as a training run. I am quite likely to enter the 12hr Enduro at Wimbledon in 4 weeks so this will be the start of the increase in distance that I need.

Here’s hoping I can now stay injury free!

An Ultra Learning Curve

This past week I have been recovering from the Saffron Trail Ultra which is 70 miles across the county of Essex in the UK. As with most races it has given me time to reflect on the event, how it went, the mistakes, the people and of course the positives.

First up..I can do it! I have never been further than 35 miles in training which has always been tough and if someone told me at the end of one of those runs to turn around and do it again I feel I would have folded! I think the balance of running an ultra is about 80% mental and 20% physical..others may disagree or have their own perception of the balance but this is how it felt to me.

Second..I don’t need gels to get through a long run. After consuming about 3 gels in the space of 20 miles and being ill I reverted to eating normal food. So I covered the last 50 miles without a gel..no more gels for me! Maybe I was drawn in by the marketing hype and had a fixation that i’d be doomed with out the magical elixir. As long as I fuel up at regular intervals on anything available from savoury snacks to sweets I’ll be fine.

3rd..cutting down on the mistakes. Recceing the route helped hugely, obsessing over Google earth for 6 weeks and repeatedly testing myself to mentally remembering the route saved time by not referring to the map and notes. I still made some mistakes but reasonably minor and am sure I would have made more without putting in the homework.

Fourth….ahem! The rather personal chaffing! I plan on buying some Under Armour Heatgear Sonic shorts To help cut down on the thigh rub. During the race I didn’t feel a thing and put this down to adrenaline and endorphins, as soon as the race was over and especially dunking into the bath..ouchy!!! Utterly red raw and bleeding.

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Lesson five..my feet are pretty tough! Only started to get blisters appearing in the last 5 miles. One small one on the sole of each foot. I used 1000 mile compression socks and along with Balega socks they are fast becoming my favourite socks to run in.

6th..Don’t hang around too long at the checkpoints. It’s good to stop and refuel and hydrate. It’s nice to be social, polite and have a chat. But it shouldn’t turn into a mini party of scoffing and nattering! I reckon I may have wasted as much as 1 hour 45 minutes at checkpoints. I need to set a routine, fill water bladder, grab food and take a drink then move on..5 minutes tops.

I didn’t realise I was learning so much! I wonder if they do degrees in Ultra Running..they do other weird degrees so why not! anyhow..

lesson seven..electrolyte tablets are invaluable in my opinion. In the London marathon I cramped badly at mile 20 which hampered the last 6 miles and stopped me getting a better time than I achieved. During the ultra I didn’t cramp once and I put that down to adding the electrolytes to my water. I just need to choose a more palatable flavour next time. Cherry/orange! what the hell was I thinking! Citrus or blackcurrant will be fine next time I think.

 So I learned a fair amount from this race alone and I can’t wait to do more! I have the Stour Valley Path coming up soon and at the moment the Stort 30 booked in October. I am toying with the idea of signing up for the Cotswold way..102 miles! For no better reason than I have the time off work and my sister lives in Bath, so she can peel me off the Abbey floor and shovel me into her house to recuperate. Also to any other ultra beginners and aspirer’s, you do not need to do more than 30 miles at a time in training, that is plenty enough. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and i’ll see some of you soon on the start line.

Virgin Money London Marathon 2014

We had decided in the New Year that we would make a weekend of the London marathon and stay in a central hotel to make getting around easy. On Saturday morning we travelled into central London and headed for the Radisson Blu hotel in Leicester Square, arriving earlier than our check in we dropped off the bags and went for a walk. I took my wife and children just around the corner to Trafalgar Square and then along Whitehall where they would watch me on the Sunday, then we carried on to Big Ben and along the Embankment.

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After getting our bearings on where to go we headed back to the hotel to check in and then had pre planned to go the cinema and out for dinner for the rest of the day. I stuck with a simple pasta dish for dinner and although tempted refrained from having a beer! After we went back to the hotel and had an early night as I had a 06.50am alarm call booked.

  I had all my kit pre layed out so there wasn’t any messing about in the morning or anything that would be forgotten. Down in the breakfast room I kept with my usual porridge with honey, a banana an orange juice and some water. I met a runner from Falkirk named Brian over breakfast and had a chat about running, our travel plans for the morning and other interests. I had decided to get on the 08.15am service from Charing Cross to Blackheath that would get me to Blackheath around 08.49am and with a 10 minute walk or so would have me in the start area for 09.00am..plenty of time. Except the queues for the toilets were huge and I seemed to pick the one line that wasn’t moving…20 minutes later and busting I got that job out of the way!

 I had arranged to meet my club mate who had travelled down by bus but once I turned my phone on and got messages coming through I was running out of time and unable to find him. checking the time it was now 09.50am and the marathon started at 10.00am so I hastily made my way to my starting pen and made sure I got right to the front. Looking around although I was in the right allocated pen the pacer in pen 8 was 4 hours 45 minute pacer, my club mate and running partner in pen 5 and the 3 hour 30 minute pacer I wanted to be with in pen 3. It didn’t feel right and I wondered why I was so far back. On speaking to those around me they all had targets of 5 hours or slower!! My previous marathon time was 6 hours 2 minutes so I feel they they thought I was over estimating my predicted time and put me at the back. I could be wrong but it is strange I was put so far back when most 4 hour runners were in pen 6.

 At least the chip time means my time started at the start line so the only thing that would hamper my time would be the thousands of slower people I would have to pass. Once the tape was broken and we could begin to move forward to the start line I was able to by pass a lot of people by keeping to the outside edge that was clear and passed a couple of thousand people by time I got to the start line but I had still only got up to pen 7 runners. I was now running in the VMLM 2014!! I was able to get into a reasonable pace and was actually happy to be kept slow at the start by other runners. Although I wanted to try and get up with Tim I didn’t want to break my neck in the first 3 miles. My pacing was bang on for 3 hour 30 minutes running at 8 minute miles and felt comfortable. Mile 3 soon came around and this is where all the runners converge together, some spots were narrow and created slight bottle necks which was awkward for trying to stay upright and not trip on either a runner, bottles or kerbs. The weather was warming up by now and I was hoping this wouldn’t continue as this would really knock the life out of me. My pace was still smooth and Cutty Sark at mile 6.5 soon came around.

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 The runners had started to thin a little but the occasional bottle necks meant they bunched up again now and then and I would suddenly find myself boxed in and being slowed down. My pace aim was to be passing over Tower Bridge around 1 hour 50 minutes. I eased on through mile 8 in 1.04.07, mile 10 in 1.20.30 and had Tower Bridge and mile 13 in my sights. One of our club runners was watching at around 14/15 miles so I knew once over the bridge I had to switch to the left hand side to stand a chance of seeing her. Passing over Tower Bridge the clock time read as 1 hour 50 minutes, bang on my predicted pace time!! mile 13 comes a short way over the bridge and my Nike+ time cam in at 1.44.57! Just inside a 3 hour 30 minute marathon which is the best I could have hoped for. Somewhere around 14.5 miles I saw Fiona from our club and stopped for a few seconds to say hello and ask if she had seen Tim, he had been and gone but was only a couple of minutes ahead, i’d continue to keep my eyes open for him.

 I was now heading into the Canary Wharf and Isle Of Dogs district. Being all concrete and glass it is a real sun trap and the heat was getting really bad heading up towards mile 16 the road starts to rise for a couple of miles as well. I started to feel it at mile 16. My pace was still perfect passing mile 16 in 2.09.10, still heading for 3.30! I was taking on a gel .5 miles previous to the lucozade sport stations situated every 5 miles and my energy level felt really good although my legs were stating to ache. With long distance running it is to be expected, I can handle aches and blisters, cramp is the dreaded foe simply because it’s debilitating. Mile 17, 18 and 19 came around with ease passing 19 miles in 2.35.06 still looking good. 22 miles is back at Tower Bridge this then heads along towards the Embankment so that point was my next target. Mile 20 the worst possible situation, cramp!! I had to take a few seconds to stretch as my left leg had locked up. I had been drinking and taking gels, my pace had been comfortable but the heat was quite bad and I was sweating profusely and I don’t think my body could keep the hydration up quick enough. Not surprisingly my pace started to suffer, being this close to home it was time to ignore the clock, dig in and do the absolute best possible. I relaxed back to give my muscles some recovery space and not push then so much, every mile marker I had to stop and stretch. The crowd at this point were out of this world screaming and cheering as if you were a front runner yourself, amazing! Every time I stopped for a stretch people would scream my name and cheer me on, telling me “not far”, “keep going Baz” and ” you’re nearly there”. Passing trough 22 miles I didn’t have a clue what my time was, I now know from Nike+ it was 3.05.35. I knew the next section to 25 miles was the Embankment and my wife and children were waiting just a little further along so this spurred me on to get to them and give them a hug for their support. Another mile anther stretch, another mile another stretch, I was hurting badly but I wanted a good time and definitely a sub 4 hours I knew I was more than capable of. Mile 25 3.37.10 my absolute best effort was slipping away, damn I hate cramp!! I rounded the corner by Big Ben and knew the family was on the left at the end of Whitehall…there they were!! I dashed over and had a hug and was a bit emotional, I tried not to stay for more than a few seconds. Less than a mile to go. Head up Birdcage Walk toward Buckingham Palace and then turn onto the final 385 yards of the Mall. I was hurting but I was running, cramp wasn’t going to stop me now, I had no strength to push or sprint for fear of cramping on the finish line. I did it!! I finished the London marathon and knew I had knocked a huge chunk of my previous time. I felt sick, I felt dizzy, I thought I was going to collapse. I took a moment by the side of the road, composed myself to collect my bag and almost keeled over again. I needed to get some food and drink pretty badly, I felt so ill.

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 After collecting my bag, goody bag and medal I stopped for my photo. I desperately needed to get back to my family and the hotel so I could start recovering. I tried to drink some more Lucozade but it made me feel sick again, as well as the heat and being dehydrated I think I may have over carbed and the sugar was making me feel sick. I found the family at the letter T meeting point and had a carton of coconut water I had pre planned to have. Miracle juice!! within minutes of having the drink and walking back towards the hotel I felt great again. Apart from some aching legs the sickness had passed, on getting back to my room the next thing was to jump in the bath…aaahhhh! bliss!

 I continued to eat and drink coconut  water through the afternoon and felt really good if not very tired. On starting to check the times and stats I could see from Nike+ I had actually run 26.99 miles! with all the weaving and crossing the road I had added .79 miles to the run..not good. For the first time on the train on the way home I got my time…3.59.29…Just scraping inside my sub 4 hour minimum target, anything faster would have been a bonus on a perfect day and with the heat and cramp that was an acceptable and credible time to me. Writing this the following day I have nothing more than sore thighs and can walk up and down the stairs easily! And am now looking for another marathon…possibly Amsterdam in October.

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Running And Conditioning The Mind

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In my daily working life i see thousands of people going about their daily business. I read magazines, books and websites and i wonder..”what is it that makes those people so different from me?” if it be educationally, employment or in this context their physical fitness. We see and hear all the time about the role of genetics and natural ability. While this may be true to an extent (after all someone who is 15 stone is going to be stronger than someone who is 10 stone) the divide between people of a similar stature, who eat healthily and live a healthy lifestyle is going to be minimal.

After spending some time reading and thinking i have drawn a personnel conclusion that it is their mental approach to their training and eating habits that helps them to excel. What are these attributes? How and why are theirs better than mine? Physically we know that if we live a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly we will make gains in our physical health. The mental qualities needed to set out on the path to physical improvement and to stay on this path long term i think are as follows.

Will Power

Tenacity

Stubbornness

Acceptance

Courage

Defiance

Passion

Persistence

Conviction

Self Belief

Each of these mental attributes are key to getting out the door, undergoing strenuous physical activity and continuing to do this week in week out. There are many different reasons and catalysts that put us on the running path but these mental qualities are what helps to keep us there when we are in the thick of it. Just as we need to physically exercise our bodies to improve we also need to mentally exercise so we can be mentally fitter and stronger, which will in turn improve our physical progression.

We need regular positive mental reinforcement to strengthen our mental resolve. This can be by gaining motivation and inspiration from the writing of others or their own physical endeavors. Simply collecting quotes can be a great way of mentally inspiring and strengthening ones own self belief. When in the middle of a run, tell yourself, “don’t stop!” , “keep going”, “i still feel fresh”, “i have energy”, “i can do this!”.

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When things are really tough going slow down but DO NOT STOP!  Use mental tricks such as telling yourself the quicker you move the sooner it will be over. Affirm to yourself the majority of the run is done, you’re on the home stretch. If you stop now you’ve still got x miles to get home, so keep moving!

It’s about personnel endeavor. Don’t think about others ability during a run. Don’t try and keep up or run as fast as others. Run your run, run your race. In training choose to improve time or distance, not both in the same training session. Always push the boundaries, you’ll surprise yourself! Don’t fear the discomfort, accept it! It will be uncomfortable but should never be painful, if it is, stop!

Do these mental processes often and your mental resolve will strengthen. You will go further and faster sooner than you think. When under physical stress and tension, you ache, your muscles are tired, mentally argue with yourself and beat your subconscious voice down. Lock the negative subconscious voice in a box, you can guarantee it’s the best escape artist that ever existed! but learn to beat it down and put it back in the box. In time and with some determination and persistence improvement will follow. When improvement doesn’t seem to be forthcoming , exercise your determination and persistance to keep you on the path towards your goal.

Run far, run fast but above all run fearless!

What A Difference A Week Makes!

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I’ve had some niggly injuries recently and think i have managed to shake of the worst. I had been working on getting the miles in again and also trying to find a bit of speed. Last Bank Holiday Monday (6th May) i had Ashdon 10k in North Essex. I had been for warned by club members that this was a hilly course…an understatement if ever i heard one! The route felt like one permanent hill, my legs were struggling and it was a real grind. If you can imagine the start was on a street about 100 feet lower than the finish point higher up on a hill. So from the start you were slowly but surely making your way around a loop finishing at a higher point. The time for Ashdon came in at 47 minutes 46 seconds, which seems slow against my previous times but for the route wasn’t all that bad! I felt disappointed at the time as i felt sluggish and slow and not particularly fit, in hindsight it was a good run. I didn’t stop at all even though my legs quite often were telling me to. Also the course was a good tester of mental strength as well as putting some good miles in the legs.

During the week i had a six mile run and a 5 mile run much closer to my average times i achieve. My lower legs have still been aching quite a lot and i really need to book in for a sports massage to get some of the slight tightness out and help them feel more relaxed. The diet hasn’t been completely strict, i have been eating all the good stuff as usual but with plenty of the  junk added along the way. It hasn’t affected my weight but i do think it may add to my sluggish race feeling. This last week i have been making a bit more effort on that front and have started drinking beetroot juice again which i feel helps even if it is a placebo effect. Heading into Sunday just gone i was feeling quite good. The Clapham Common 10k in South London which i took part in yesterday (12th May) is fairly flat. It is a mix of tarmac paths and grass tracks and only has a very slight elevation rise. I went into this in two minds, one knowing i had run a slow time last week but also that it was flat and i could get a good time if i could summon up the effort. A perfect day for running with it being dry, warm and breezy i got of to a good start and was almost unsure as to how i should pace myself. I decided to try and warm into it for the first couple of miles, it was a two lap course so as soon as the first lap was completed i began to push harder and found a good rhythm. I tried to catch someone that had been about 30 yards ahead of me for the whole race but i just couldn’t get them. It was a good way of sticking with a high tempo pace though and i was rewarded with a time of 44 minutes and 49 seconds which is my second fastest time finishing in 37th of 311 runners. It was really pleasing to have such a good run and i have more races soon as well. Henham 10k in North Essex on Sunday 19th May and then Hatfield Broad Oak 10k Essex on the next May Bank Holiday 27th which i am told is a PB potential course. So all being well that will be the race i will try and improve on 43 minutes 27 seconds.

 

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Hope you’re having some great runs in the warmer weather, Baz.

New Running Plan Heading Into 2013

Having had a bad couple of weeks with running only 2 times in that space of time things are starting to pick up again. A couple of weeks back i pulled my left calf and was struggling to run. I made one club night and ran in the cross country league on Sunday the 2nd December. Yesterday was the first proper bit of running i have done for the last couple of weeks and i felt it! I set out and completed a 10 mile run in 1 hour 21 minutes and 32 seconds. down on what i have achieved previously but considering the last few weeks not all that bad, probably only 10 or so minutes down on where i was. I now have a 10 mile race booked on December 30th in Buntingford, cross country league races and my next main goal of two half marathons at the start of March. The first of those two being the Bath half marathon which is currently a featured event on the running bug. I now have just under 3 months to go and i have sat down and working backwards from the event set out a training plan.I will stick to my 5 days a week training with 2 rest days but change up the training a little and possibly do 2 sessions in one day if i have the time. The plan looks something like this:

Monday: Weights/Circuit Training
 
Tuesday: Rest
 
Wednesday: Hills, Intervals or Yasso 800’s
 
Thursday: 10k Time Trial
 
Friday: 8 mile Easy/Recovery Run
 
Saturday: Rest
 
Sunday: Long Run 10, 12 or 14 miles
 
Some of the Sunday runs coincide with the cross country races but there are only 3 races left between n ow and the end of January so it won’t have a huge impact on my schedule. I would like to try and fit in another 10 mile race in January and February as well in the build up to the Bath half marathon. Another positive sign is that although i was aching quite a lot after yesterdays 10 miles today i have hardly any soreness at all. So i can only presume that the work i have done up until now is paying off and that my diet is adequate for recovery as well. My next cross country race will be on Sunday 16th December in Ware, roughly over 5 miles and i expect to get round in about 37 minutes.